When you buy a ticket to watch your favorite team play, there is a Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs of the in-game experience. The first is that your team must win. Second is that it must be a good game; that no matter the outcome, the entertainment value is high and the roll of the athletic contest dice comes up in your favor. Any remaining needs are largely personal, and generally distill who one is as a fan. For instance, if your third level of need is to win a promotional t-shirt fired from a gun for screaming at the top of your lungs, you are of the fan species animalus stupidus and you always seem to be seated directly behind me.
Monday night I decided to #TreatYoSelf... myself and pay for 100 LEVEL SEATING! I have many thoughts on sitting in NBA business class, but for pure game action this was base level NBA satisfaction. Even without Joakim Noah - out with "hamstring tendinits", which we'll get back to - the Bulls sat on the Nets and asked them why they were hitting themselves to the tune of a 27-point shellacking that wasn't nearly that close.
Joe Johnson, he of the most impenetrable outer shell of disinterest in recent NBA history, was visibly disgusted with his team's lack of fight with a playoff berth on the line. Chicago played well across the box score, but I would describe the game as a rock that was pushed down an ever-steepening hill, finally landing upon Lionel Hollins' team with a gooshy sound effect. Credit the Bulls, who had it locked up on defense and took advantage of the Nets' stinker, setting Chicago up for at least the 4-seed and a good shot at the 3-seed if things break well for them over the next 48 hours.
To the observation deck:
- Obviously we must check in and take a scanning electron microscope to Derrick Rose's game, so let's get it out of the way. Frankly he looks pretty sharp given the time he missed over the past month. and how f*cking long it took him to find a rhythm at the season's outset. He had a handful of Acme rocket drives early in the game that make you yell woooooooo whenever you see them and ended with really tidy box score of 13-7-3 in 23 minutes of action. Also, when we talk about what Rose might have learned in his extensive time away from the game the past two years, learning how to beat trapping defenses need be mentioned. He made a another great pass out of the double team that ended in a Taj dunk tonight.
On the bummer side - because there must be one in all DRose analyses - he's still struggling on the defensive end, a storyline that we're likely to hear more about as the playoffs unfold. I also submit to Congress a bipartisan bill to ban Drose from off-the-dribble three point shots with more than five on the shot clock. The injury scare du jour was an ankle tweak on a collision with Thaddeus Youngg that made my cold heart skip a cynical beat, but he got up and walked it off and seemed fine afterwards. Although who could tell what his gait means because Drose walks like Redd Fox on rickety stilts during pregame warmups. Has he always been that way and I'm just noticing it now because of the injuries? I really, really hope so. Also, I silently wish for Rose to come to the playoffs with the short cropped 'do of old that makes him look like an angry bullet. Even if just for nostalgia purposes, that would make me do an And-1 OH BABY dance all over my apartment.
- Pau Gasol is the NBA's whiniest child. You must understand that I love Pau and that he remains one of, if not the premier shining personality of the NBA today. And thank god for who he is away from the game, because his on-court persona unearnedly bitches so much, about so many different things, in so many different ways that trust fund babies the world over are tuning in to take notes. Granted one can do as they please when they continue to add to their league-leading number of double-doubles at age 34 for a cool $7 million a year. I'm just looking forward to the day when a play that doesn't go Pau's way doesn't end with //yell //mimed replay of the affront //head shake //late getting back down the court.
- It was one of those "Everybody is Awesome" nights for the Bulls. Taj looked better than he has in a long-ass time; Aaron Brooks' threw up his patented funky stuff and enough of it went in the basket to make it fun times; Jimmy feasted on godawful Jarrett Jack passes and generally cared more than all the Nets combined; Niko scored 26 including three bombs in succession in the 3rd quarter when the Bulls delivered the final crotch kick. Up and down the stat sheet there were fun lines to read for Bulls fans.
- Except for Tony. The Snellevator was on the bottom floor for most of the game, clanking open 3's and playing sleepy D until the game became a Summer League affair. Unsurprisingly he did well once that happened.
- Is there SportVU data for pump fakes? If so, I'd like to know Niko's 3p% with and without them, please. By my careful observation alone, I would calculate the stats thusly:
Niko with pump fake: -1,000,000%
Niko without pumping: splash%
His teammates know:
Mirotic:"Some of my players said, ‘Niko, don’t think. Shoot the ball. Because you’re wide open. Don’t pump-fake.’ These guys, they’re right"— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) April 14, 2015
- So Jo sat out with "hamstring tendinitis", eh?
In the midst of talking about how Bulls needed to get healthy, Rose said Noah sat out because he was "just getting his knee together."— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) April 14, 2015
Why do the Bulls have an allergic distaste for honest declarations of health? I'm all for resting Jo before the playoffs, but the entire universe knows his knee is wonky until he can have an offseason to heal. All that is to be gained strategically from obfuscation (not a damn thing) is paid for in credibility (not a whole lot) and looking stupid (plenty of that). Maybe it's just brainstem tendinitis.
- I'm weirdly loving Thibs again, you guys. I know it's a relationship with flaws but I feel like we've gone too far to give up this easily. Maybe we both said some things we didn't mean in the heat of the moment. But we built this house on a lot of love and a forged iron strongside defense, dammit, and we've been through too much to just walk away now. Not seeing him stand on the sidelines like a coked-up school crossing guard for 48 minutes next year would be a void in my life I'm not ready to entertain. Thibs in 2016!
- Also, Thibs does the best thing, which I've been watching all season. It's the best! When the Bulls are on defense and on his side of the floor, watch his hands. One is forever shoved in a pocket of his slacks, but the other? Oh the other. Whenever a Bull is defending an active dribbler, Thibs' index and middle fingers dance around like they themselves control the defender. I love that little finger dance. He just can't help but care this much, and those two digits show it every single time down the floor.
- I have to be honest and say that this wasn't the first time I've sat in the lower bowl at an NBA game. Back when the Clippers were a joke and I lived in LA, I'd occasionally throw a couple of extra bucks at a ticket so I could see Mike Dunleavy turn an entire generation of NBA players against him up close. But it had been awhile and I'd forgotten what business class was like, so let me take a moment to point out the differences between there and the cheap seats I usually sit in.
1. Everything is 20% nicer. Better beer selection, hotter wives and girlfriends, more knowledgeable and well-behaved fans (except the guy directly behind me). It's going to be hard to go back to cattle class.
2. This can be seen from anywhere in the stadium but woooeeee do Chicago fans show out. Not sure if it's the easily identifiable red team gear or the fact that there's just a lot of fans of the team but I'd say Barclays was about 40% Bulls fans. In related news, lordy jeez it must be no fun to play for the Nets.
3. Cool things happen up close! Chris Mullin was in the house as he recently returned to New York to coach his alma mater St. John's and passed right in front of me. Now there's a haircut you can set your watch to!
4. Ban kiss cam. It's a series of politically incorrect jokes, terrible awkward tension, and occasionally a half-baked dolt's idea of a great time to propose marriage, all disguised as a rockin' good time™ for fans during TV timeouts. There are sooooo many better ideas for in-stadium content that I am just waiting for the NBA to pay me far too much money to produce. Here's a free one just to get the creative juices cooking: Station a cameraman just outside the women's bathroom then release a ferret in there. COMEDY GOLD, JERRY. Fine it may suck but it's still better than the forced tonsil hockey I saw on the jumbtron Monday.
- This win nearly bookends the Bulls season with super-great blowouts with me in attendance, as I wrote about the season-opening shellacking of the Knicks way back in October. Interesting to look back and see how many questions from then remain unanswered. Rose and Noah's health... Pau's value on offense versus how he fits on D... the team's ceiling... just how old Kirk Hinrich can appear... none of these mysteries have been solved after 81 games. Time to pack up the emotional baggage for the playoffs and see what the Bulls can do after a season I've often described as a a kicked beehive. Lots of honey, but man it's been ouchy. My one real remaining hope is for the Bulls to claw their way through to the Cavaliers and then give them every damn thing they can handle. Flawed as this team may be, they've been saving up an eff you for Cleveland all year that they deserve a chance to shout to the rafters.